5 Things to Know About Robert Durst's Upcoming Murder Trial
For more than a year, accused killer and New York real estate heir Robert Durst had to sit in a Louisiana jail cell, awaiting his eventual extradition to Los Angeles, where he’s facing a murder trial in the 2000 slaying of Susan Berman, his longtime friend and onetime spokeswoman.
Durst was finally extradited on Friday, and he will remain in L.A. County custody throughout the court proceedings, including a Monday arraignment. He has not entered a plea to his murder charge, though he has publicly maintained his innocence.
“Bob did not kill Susan Berman. He doesn’t know who did,” Durst’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, tells PEOPLE. “He has been eager to get to trial for a year and a half. It has been hard on him, and he will finally have his day in court, and we are eager to have it happen.”
Durst was charged with Berman’s murder on March 14, 2015. His apprehension in New Orleans preceded the airing of the damning final episode of HBO’s six-part documentary series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which focused on the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen Durst, while examining Berman’s execution-style killing.
In the HBO finale, Durst appeared to mutter to himself that he’d “killed them all, of course.” He was allegedly unaware the filmmaker’s microphones were still recording at the time.
Durst is now in L.A., where his impending murder trial will commence within the next year. Here are five important things to know about the case.
1. Why Was Durst Extradited Now?
According to DeGuerin, Durst’s extradition to California was delayed by unspecified health problems and by Louisiana prosecutors, who filed a weapons charge against Durst that was later dismissed in favor of a federal weapons charge.
DeGuerin told PEOPLE that the charges “had to be resolved before he could be moved to California.” That case resulted in a federal prison sentence, “which means Bob will be in federal custody to serve that sentence.”
DeGuerin said Californian authorities “must request his presence, which will be more easily accomplished if the federal Bureau of Prisons assigns him to a federal prison near Los Angeles.” DeGuerin had asked the federal judge in New Orleans “to recommend that in the sentence, and he did.”
Further delaying Durst’s trip out west were a number “medical complications,” DeGuerin says, that required “serious surgery” and ultimately “delayed action by the Bureau of Prisons.”
DeGuerin says following Durst’s extradition that he is “good but in frail health.”
2. What Is Durst Accused of for This Trial?
Durst is the only suspect to face charges for Berman’s execution-style shooting death. Her lifeless remains were discovered inside her home in Beverly Hills, California, in 2000.
Since his arrest, Durst has repeatedly denied he was involved in Berman’s killing, and DeGuerin has previously blamed the producers of The Jinx for his client’s current legal woes.
“Now, he’s unfairly suspected of killing Ms. Berman because of this entertainment program being creatively edited to make it look like he was either confessing or that there is new evidence when there is not,” DeGuerin told PEOPLE in April. “He is eager to finally get have his say in court, at his trial, in front of a jury and not with somebody who was only out to get an Emmy.”
During the Jinx‘s last episode, Durst was confronted by filmmaker Andrew Jarecki and presented with a 1999 letter the 73-year-old real estate scion had penned to Berman. The missive’s handwriting appears to match an anonymous letter mailed to Beverly Hills Police, alerting them to a “cadaver” at Berman’s residence.
Both letters also misspelled the word “Beverly” as “Beverley.”
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3. What Do Durst’s Lawyers Think?
DeGuerin has been adamant about Durst’s innocence in Berman’s death, saying his client was “eager” for a trial.
“He is ready for the fight,” DeGuerin told PEOPLE in October 2015. “He has come to realize that this is finally his opportunity to clear his name — at trial, with fair rules, in a court that will require hard evidence.”
And in February, following Durst’s plea deal in the federal weapons charge, he said, “[Durst’s] legal team has been working to ‘clear the decks’ of other investigations so he can get to California as soon as possible.”
4. Hasn’t Durst Been Linked to Multiple Disappearances or Deaths?
The FBI has been looking into unsolved homicides in cities where Durst has lived since the mid-1990s, to see if authorities could connect him to any of the cold cases.
Durst is widely suspected (but never charged) in the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, and in 2001 he was arrested for the murder and dismemberment of his neighbor Morris Black. He was later acquitted in Black’s death after arguing self-defense.
Investigators have also explored a possible connection between Durst and the 1997 disappearance of Karen Mitchell, a 16-year-old from Eureka, California, who vanished after possibly getting into a car with an unidentified older man.
Durst allegedly may have known Mitchell, or run into her in town, but he has never been charged in connection with her or named as a suspect in her case.
Durst has also been linked to the 1971 disappearance of Lynne Schulze, an 18-year-old freshman at Middlebury College in Vermont. Though he has never been charged in that case, he has been called a “person of interest.”
Schulze was last seen on Dec. 10, 1971, according to police. At 12:30 p.m., she bought dried prunes at All Good Things, a health food store owned by Durst. She returned to her dorm room for about an hour. About 2:45 p.m., she was seen standing across from the store and near a bus stop.
DeGuerin tells PEOPLE that Durst is unconnected to these cases. “They are just trying to pile on,” he says. “There is no evidence.”
5. What’s Next for Durst?
Now that Durst is in L.A., the state proceedings — the murder case involving Berman — can begin.
“I expect the preliminary hearing may take place in December or January, and the trial will be scheduled later in 2017,” DeGuerin tells PEOPLE.
Prosecutors in L.A. have not disclosed a possible timeline for Durst’s upcoming trial.
• With reporting by CHRISTINE PELISEK